There could have been as many as 10 nominees, depending on how many films got No. 1 votes from members, and we got nine.
When trying to read which films have the strongest support within the Academy, there’s a simple gauge for that: How many total nominations did they get? While individual branches nominate in their own fields, and then the entire 6,000 person membership of the Academy votes on the final winners, the Best Picture nominees are voted on by everybody.
By looking at the other nods, we can see which films were favorites in the individual branches. The thing that makes a Best Picture winner is when all the different skills necessary to make a film are top tier.
As mentioned, Gravity and American Hustle each had 10 bids — with Gravity faring stronger in the technical categories, and Hustle dominating in each one of the four acting fields. That sets up an interesting contrast: Gravity wows with spectacle, but Hustle wows with character.
12 Years a Slave straddles both. It also hit hard in the performer categories, perhaps falling short of a leading 10 nods only because there wasn’t a female actress who could be considered a lead.
After that, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska and Captain Phillips each had six nominations, while Her and The Wolf of Wall Street had five each. Philomena was last with four bids.
Okay, so those are the nine films with the most overall nominations. What else are they… ?
The nine Best Picture contenders.
12 Years a Slave
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street
Saving Mr. Banks got shut down hard. For a long time it was considered in the top five nominees, but week after week it began to slip. The story of Walt Disney’s battle to make Mary Poppins simply did not have the endurance it needed. And it was also knee-capped just before voting closed in a rather brutal (and factually challenged) speech by Meryl Streep last week, accusing Disney of being an anti-semite. That could easily have made the difference.
Other possible contenders left off the list were Blue Jasmine and Inside Llewyn Davis, but those were always longshots for the final contenders.
Prize Fighter score: 9 out of 9!
Since the list could go to 10 under Academy rules, the only one I included who didn’t make the cut was Banks. Otherwise, Prize Fighter had every movie that made the list. (This is accountability, not boasting, by the way. If I were wrong, I’d be doing my mea culpas right now. *Cough* Like on the next page …)
Next Page: The Best Actor category …